Drive Accordingly: 2018 Honda Accord EX-L

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

Holy sedan! I just had the opportunity to test drive a 2018 Honda Accord EX-L, I couldn’t say yes, please and thank you fast enough! Since most of the cars I test drive these days include seating for nine, captain’s chairs (my fave), tons of cup holders and a lot of folding seat options, the idea of driving an unpretentious, yet fully loaded sedan made me squeal with excitement! It is sleek, stylish and seating is plentiful, especially for my family of five. Nine times out of 10, I have at least two out of three kids with me at all times and at the rate they’re growing, especially their attitudes, the space in the Accord definitely did the trick!

Can we start with the way the car looks? I was super impressed by the sophistication of the vehicle and how it’s changed over the years. Even the girls thought they were traveling in a limo for the weekend. When I would think of a sedan, I envision a four door, boring, boxy vehicle. You know, what your retired parents might drive. Not so with the Accord’s case. The European-inspired fastback design along with 19-inch Glint Black Alloy wheels and Decklid Spoiler gives the Accord a fresh, younger look…similar to me after Botox!

*Car was parked with emergency brake on for photo.

I like to think that I’m an amazing driver, but as my children and husband have both pointed out to me in the past, it’s not exactly a strong quality (except when I’m test driving, of course!). The Honda Accord EX-L actually makes you a safe driver. It boasts a full suite of safety and driver assistive technologies such as LKAS (lane keeping assist system) — this will actually adjust the steering wheel to help you stay in your lane, (RDM) Road Departure Mitigation System — if you happen to cross over a lane without signaling, your vehicle will move you back to your starting lane, or provide braking (#drivinggoals). Add to that CMBS (Collision Mitigation Braking System), ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control), TSR (Traffic Sign Recognition), which displays speed-limit sign information to assist the driver while the vehicle is moving. The camera can recognize the speed limit sign for all to see…great for backseat drivers ages 4 through 8!

The 8-inch display audio touch screen does its job nicely and makes it so convenient to swipe my way through every Taylor Swift song until the right one is found, and listened to, over and over and over again and again.

Overall, the 2018 Honda Accord is one sedan I would own. The space is large enough for the family and the feel is impressive. And while I chauffeured my girls around town all weekend for girl scouts and birthday parties, I also filled the trunk with groceries, dog food, bicycles and a great find at the consignment shop. I didn’t mind it a bit and ACCORDing to my girls, as they mentioned several times, “This is easy to get in and out of compared yours mom, and also prettier and cleaner.”

2018 Honda Accord EX-L – As tested M.S.R.P. $30,865

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Pilot Your Way Back to School: 2018 Honda Pilot Elite

juliadrozserafine_headshot– By Julia Droz Serafine

It’s that time of year again. Pretty soon our kiddos will be making their way out the door to start a new school year. New outfits, folders, #2 pre-sharpened pencils, plenty of disinfecting wipes and brand-new backpacks, because according to my eight-year-old, having a new backpack every year is a “must!” New friends, old friends, AMAZING teachers and office staff, social media adds and maybe, just maybe, a new family vehicle! Kids are getting older (and bigger), supply lists are getting longer, sporting equipment and musical instruments are plentiful or maybe you’ve added another kid or two to your brood. These all sound like reasonable explanations to go and test drive a 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. Of course, no one will be going anywhere without the obligatory “first day of school” photo post! My girls usually average about 30 shots before we get all eyes open and no hair pulling. What’s your count?

Family-Friendly, High-Tech 2018 Honda Pilot Goes On-Sale

HER Certified provided me an amazing opportunity to test drive the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the body style of the Pilot had taken on a sleeker look. I was never a fan of the “box” shape of years past. To me, the Pilot is a nice mix between a minivan and an SUV. It’s like a perfect child (not that I would know what that’s like). Aside from the Pilot’s beautiful exterior, the first thing that caught my eye inside were the captain’s chairs instead of a standard bench seat. I am seriously obsessed with this feature. This makes shoving, I mean, assisting the kids in and out of the vehicle a delight! A simple push of a button automatically slides the second row forward, effortlessly allowing the oldest to jump to that third row without any complaints (mom win). Not to mention the distance between the two second row captain’s chairs that keeps the car a “hitting, T-shirt pulling, scratch-free zone” for my younger two. All is well in the world.

Although it’s a short drive from our home to the Red Dot Boutique, it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the ride. The panoramic roof, in addition to the sun roof, gave us an awesome view of the incoming monsoon clouds…which lasted about 30 seconds when all eyes switched to the Blue-Ray screen showing Nick Jr.! The multi-informational display is right up front and super easy to go from text, phone call, to music…not all at once, of course!

The flexible cargo space was definitely what we needed after our major back-to-school shopping spree. And since we can’t leave Target without items we “don’t need,” per my husband, with a flip of the reversible cargo lid, we were able to hide, I mean, place the items in the deep space of the trunk. What happens in Target stays in Target.

Driving the Pilot was a treat. Not only did it ride smoothly, its 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine produces 280 horsepower, which definitely allows for some pick up. I am most impressed by the amount of safety features within the Pilot. The 2018 Honda Pilot has achieved top ratings from NHTSA and IIHS and is equipped with innovative safety and drivers-assistive technology including Honda Sensing. These features include Lane Keeping Assist System in which the steering wheel actually keeps you “in line,” Cross Traffic Monitor Collision Mitigation Braking System, which brings the car to a stop to avoid frontal collision, and Road Departure Mitigation System, in which the car literally hollers at you if you cross lanes without a signal!

Overall, the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite ranks high on my list of family vehicles. It has a feel of driving a large SUV without it being a large SUV (short girl problems). I appreciate the sleek design and the impressive interior features that accommodate my large and loud crew. Did I mention it has captain’s chairs? Back-to-school supplies doesn’t have to be for students only, take your list into Bell Honda today and check out the Pilot.

Prices starting at $29,516

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Watch Out: I’m On Weight Watchers — 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 Sel S-AWC

– By Melanie Droz Shawcroft

Well, I am officially a member of Weight Watchers. After years of looking for the right program, I think I have finally found it. I have kicked off my journey in an eight-way power adjustable leather, heated driver’s seat behind the convenient steering wheel with controls of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander, which has encouraged me to get active and enjoy the ride — the car and my life.

I am hoping once I am successful on Weight Watchers, I won’t need the extra room; however, with the third-row seating and an easy fold-down second and third row, the Outlander offers a ton of space for family and friends or healthy groceries, gym equipment, workout gear… The power remote liftgate and cargo light make it easy to throw my stuff in the back after a late-night workout.

Although working out is key to staying healthy, Weight Watchers is all about tracking every crumb you eat. I can track my food and exercise easily with the 7” touchscreen display which can allow me to simply and safely access my Weight Watchers app. The navigation can also help me find the nearest Weight Watchers location for my weekly meeting and weigh-in. I can also access Bluetooth, Sirius XM, and so much more.

The safety of the Outlander is working overtime to keep my new slim figure protected. Winning the 2018 Top Safety Pick Award, the Outlander comes equipped with Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist. Hill Start Assist, Anti-lock Braking System and Brake Assist are additional safety features that allow the Outlander to basically drive itself. If only it could do my workouts!

I am definitely inspired to keep working hard so I can look as good as the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander. The power glass sunroof with sunshade and tilt features, the 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels and chrome accents are just a few of the Outlanders slick features. It isn’t all looks either – the 2.4L MIVEC 16-valve engine with electric power steering gets an average of 26 miles per gallon. I am encouraged my journey will also end with such impressive stats.

The 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty is similar to the assurance that Weight Watchers provides – it is a simple and flexible way of living – very good pairing. With an MSRP of $27,995 (my model $32,260), the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander sounds like the right SUV for someone who is ready to live their life and enjoy the ride.

Car Or Boat — Lexus Wins: 2017 Lexus GS 350 F Sport

Click to read more about Cathy

By Cathy Droz –

It is no secret that I like the Lexus brand. I actually have a HER Certified studio inside Superstition Springs Lexus in Arizona and I’ve test driven more Lexus products than other makes or models.

The Lexus brand, which has been accused of being stagnate, has made some visible changes over the years. The most noticeable and dramatic was the front grille. I get asked all the time, why did they change it? I heard that a certain “gender” felt it wasn’t aggressive enough looking on the road. Well they got their snarl and whole lot more.

Planning a weekend in California, Lexus suggested we take the F sport. That was fine with me because I think the 2017, Lexus GS 350 F Sport is very special and not just because it is “fast.” I’ve tested this vehicle before on the track, so I can attest to performance of the 350F. It includes a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that delivers 310 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Match this to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift option. I did get to test the manufacturer’s claim of “0-to-60” in 5.7 seconds; not on the way to San Diego, but on the track. The F Sport package includes special wheels, adaptive suspension, and variable gear ratio steering with a sport plus mode, larger brakes, special badging and interior trim. I’m not done yet… Mark Levinson audio system, intuitive park assist, black brake calipers, four-wheel steering, leather steering wheel and a few more things. The base price of the GS350 is $54,810 and the car I tested GS350 F was about $5,000 more and I believe worth it.

We had many things on our to-do list that weekend but number one was to look at a few motor yachts for our friends in New York. They are planning to retire in California and live on a boat in San Diego. Now this was a request we had no problem accepting. After all, shopping for a boat is no different than a car (my next book). For instance, the exterior of a boat or car must be appealing to the driver or captain as well as the interior, which I was in charge of. The Lexus is known for its superior craftsmanship and quiet, elegant style. The power tilt-and-telescoping steering column was perfect for me at 5’2; I wasn’t in danger from the airbag exploding and had a clear view of all the Marinas.

Speaking of safety, Lexus Enform adds an app suite as well as safety connect that automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious crash and it also comes with 10 airbags.

We stayed at a boutique hotel in Downtown San Diego where we practically had the parking garage to ourselves. So, when a woman approached us one evening, she wanting to tell us that she loved the headlamps of the Lexus, I was pleased. At first, I thought she was kidding until I got out and looked…there you go, another detail that a woman noticed that made a difference. In fact, they are referred to as “intelligent high beam headlamps.”

Whether it is a boat, car or RV, you must test drive them to make sure they meet your needs and or wants. I drove the Lexus GS350 F through its paces while in San Diego, but we didn’t take out any of the motor yachts, we’ll leave that to our friends.

For more on the Lexus GS350 F, go to

Base Price: $54,810

As Tested: $60,305

Fuel Economy: 19/27 mpg city/highway

Motor Yacht: $850,000

Dingy: $29,000


Not So CLUELESS After All: 2016 Wrangler Unlimited 4×4 75th Edition

juliadrozserafine_headshot– By Julia Droz Serafine

Every time I see a Jeep Wrangler pass by me on the road, it brings me right back to 1995. I start thinking about the famous coming of age movie, Clueless.

CLUELESS: Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures Corporation

What I would have given to be the character “Cher” and drive around Beverly Hills in a loqued out (fully loaded) Jeep Wrangler my daddy bought me. My girlfriend and I would spend hours watching Clueless over and over, reciting lines and of course, dancing to the soundtrack.


We’d even ditch 7th hour to drive down to the local mall in search of the perfect ensemble at Contempo Causuals…AS IF! The only thing missing was our Jeep Wrangler with four-wheel drive, dual side airbags and a monster sound system.

I jumped at the chance to test drive the 2016 Jeep Wrangler 75th Anniversary Edition and boy, was it a total “Betty” (beautiful). To say that this vehicle has evolved, would be an understatement. Yes, it still has the feel of a Jeep, with its off-roading capabilities; but the 75th Anniversary Edition comes with quite a few upgrades, including Rock Rails, Tru-Lok differential rear axle, 17-inch bronze aluminum wheels and dual top group (soft or hard top). This look is definitely everything, but generic (basic).

The inside is even sweeter. No Hagsville (unattractive) here. The 75th edition is accented with bronze, Moroccan Sun Instrument Panel Bezel, leather seats with cloth (ombre mesh), 6.5-inch touchscreen display and the Grab Handle with the 10th Anniversary Logo. It’s like wearing an Alaia (like, a totally important fashion designer)!

The Jeep Wrangler is a ton of fun! It makes every-day driving easy and luxurious at the same time. I love the off-road capability, the rugged outdoorsy look, the cargo space and the versatility of the top. However, in my opinion it was a bit clamorous (noisy) and the handling a bit rocky. Overall, this is not a Monet (clueless term). It is a beautiful vehicle both inside and out.

These days, “I’m Rollin’ With the Homies” (Coolio song from the movie) but my homies are eight and under. This Jeep is not a good fit for a large family. It is best suited for a fun, rugged and adventurous couple or family of four or less. However, it is super pretty, and you won’t be buggin’ (freaked out) if you decide to purchase. Audi…(Later)!

Starting Price: $33,695

Price as Tested: $48,035

18 MPG (16 CITY; 20 HWY)

Clueless Movie DVD: $12.99

For more reviews by HER Certified go to

Kid In A Candy Store: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

– By Melanie Droz Shawcroft


One would think it would be difficult to bounce back to 6th-grade teacher, wife and mom of two boys after a weekend with the girls, and one would be right! However, driving the 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite made it a smooth, exciting transition.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to stay home with the baby a couple of days this week, but we were still responsible for bringing his big brother to school. Each morning, we jumped in the Odyssey using the remote engine start, dual power sliding doors and hands-free access power tailgate. I was literally able to carry the baby, a stroller and Berrett’s backpack because my hands were completely free. Since the mornings are chilly, we were able to warm up with the tri-zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats. The 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite can make any mom’s morning routine easier and more comfortable — there are also more than enough cup holders for coffee.

My 6-year-old was like a kid in a candy store all week when he got to take a ride in the Odyssey. He wanted to put the second- and third-row sunshades up and down; he would go from sitting in the 60/40-fold-down third row to the magic slide second-row seats, and he especially enjoyed the Blu-ray/DVD rear entertainment system with wireless headsets. He could drown out the noise of his little brother and watch PBS Kids, even if we were just driving a mile to his school. He definitely didn’t want to drown us out when we brought him Barro’s Pizza for lunch one day. He was showing off his brother just like I was showing off the Odyssey to all the other moms. The power moonroof with tilt feature, 19” alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and power folding door mirrors were enough to impress.

I was also impressed with the performance and safety of the 2018 Odyssey. With my normal weekend rituals of picking up the boys, quickly running into the store for a birthday gift and attending a 7-year-old’s birthday party, the Odyssey’s 280hp, 3.5-liter VTEC V8 engine got me where I needed to go quickly. With 19/28 mpg, we had plenty of fuel for our typical errands and with the 10-speed automatic transmission, paddle shifters and electric power steering, we felt a bit like a racecar at times. Even though I felt unstoppable, Honda knows better which is why the Odyssey is packed with safety features. The Collision Mitigation braking system with forward collision warning kept me from landing in someone’s backseat while getting on the freeway headed to the Science Center. With LATCH, VSA, ABS, EBD, FCW, LDW and LKAS, there is no science equation that can compete with the plethora of safety acronyms in the Odyssey.

It wasn’t all about the kids with the Odyssey this weekend. My husband and I enjoyed taking it to his work holiday party Saturday night. Although we didn’t walk away winning one of the enormous gift bags that were raffled off at the party, there were plenty of features in the minivan to be grateful for — premium audio system with 11 speakers, display audio with Honda Navigation, multiview rear camera and illuminated visor vanity mirrors — just to name a few. With an MSRP $46,670, the 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite is a perfect vehicle for this wife, mom and 6th-grade teacher.

Escape The Room…Embrace The Genesis: 2017 Hyundai Genesis G-90

– By Melanie Droz Shawcroft

In order to celebrate summer birthdays this year, my girlfriends and I signed up for the 1980s-themed Escape the Room. Although the majority of us were born in the ’80s, we barely made it out in the 60 minutes allotted. Something we did not want to escape during our ladies’ Saturday was the 2017 Hyundai Genesis G-90.

Since I’ve never experienced an Escape the Room, I was just as bewildered when I entered the room as I was when I opened the door to the Genesis — who knew Hyundai could be so luxurious with its large grille and sleek exterior lines? I was unaware that this parent company (Hyundai) had branched off to create a new brand* (Genesis). Similar to how oblivious I was looking for clues in the ’80s room.

I was shocked at how ill-prepared we were, especially since we blasted ’80s on “8” on the SIRIUS XM radio through the 17-speaker Lexicon audio and Quantum Logic Surround System on our way to the venue. Ninety-nine red balloons and 867-5309 had to mean something, and we definitely attempted to open all locks using these numbers with little success. One winning number resulting from this ladies’ day (definitely not the ages we were celebrating) was the $70,000 price tag of the 2017 Genesis — over $10,000 less than major competitors.

The performance of some of my experienced Escape the Room friends was impressive. They were turning through book pages, goggling popular trends in the ’80s and riding on outdated exercise bikes. It was quite the scene; however, it didn’t outdo the performance of the Genesis. The 3.3L 6-cylinder turbo engine with 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque would have gotten us out of this room in seconds. We experienced the quiet, smooth ride of the Genesis on our way to brunch and it felt like we were floating — that feeling could have also been our boasting after the ladies working there told us only 20 percent of groups successfully escape the room.

The ’80s room was filled with games — an air hockey table, foosball table, old Nintendo and a raggedy Suns’ jersey. The old television projecting the ancient video game was nothing in comparison to the 12.3-inch touchscreen in the Genesis. In fact, the Genesis plays no games when it comes to its safety features. Receiving IIHS’ highest honor of Safety Pick for 2017, this 4-door sedan with AWD earned the highest rating of Superior for front crash prevention due to the braking system feature. Other safety features include standard automatic emergency braking, braking and pedestrian detection alert, blind spot protection, nine airbags and a pre-active seatbelt system. Being locked in a room with posters of Ghostbusters and Michael Jackson for almost an hour made me crave the safety of the Genesis.

I wish the outdated couch in the Escape the Room was as comfortable as the seats in the Genesis. The ’80s exercise bike seat wasn’t even a close second in comfort. My girlfriends raved about the lavish rear seat and got a kick out of using the fold-down armrest that had complete control over the multimedia system. With multiple cup holders and USB ports along with heated and cooled front and back seats, I am surprised we ever left the comfort of our sedan. Getting 17 city mpg and 24 highway, we got to our Escape the Room and Postinos for brunch with little fuel wasted — unlike the massive amount of time we wasted trying to figure out the significance of Pepsi Twist (ummmm, we actually had to twist the top of the can to find the clue inside). I’m telling you…it is no easy feat to Escape the Room.

After finishing our celebration of turning yet another year older, it was great to unite with treasured friends, locked in a room, trying to escape the ’80s yet again. Our final clue was to find something with two Rs and two Ds — my first instinct was to race out to the 2017 Genesis G-90 for the reliability, relaxation, drive and durability, but I could not get out of the room, so I quickly grabbed the stuffed R2D2 doll and threw it to my girlfriends who got us out with nearly five minutes to spare. Best 55 minutes of my 37th year of life (except for the time I got to drive my dear friends in the Genesis).

*Genesis is to Hyundai like Lexus is to Toyota and Infiniti is to Nissan. A luxury brand of the same Manufacturer.

Starting at MSRP: $68,100

Vehicle Tested: $74,690

Girlfriend Approved: Priceless

Honesty, Excellence, Respect — Lexus: 2017 Lexus ES300h

Click to read more about Cathy

By Cathy Droz –

In today’s environment and across the various generations, a key to any successful enterprise is delivering on their philosophy and values, regarding their customers’ experience. The following information compares two diverse organizations, but with similar approaches to that experience.

There is nothing like test driving a Lexus; I haven’t driven one I wouldn’t want to own. While I am certainly appreciative of the craftsmanship and functionality of these cars, what I am most impressed with are the values the Lexus brand has for its employees, dealers and community. If you are not familiar with the Lexus philosophy, below is an example of their beliefs, which is very consistent with my views on customer service.

“The host anticipates the needs of the guest in advance and offers a service that guests don’t expect. They should not wait for instructions.”

Recently, I drove the Lexus ES300h to a meeting that took place at a Changing Hands book store in Phoenix. Changing Hands is a well-known, nonfranchised book store that houses thousands of new books, and hosts book signings for authors on The New York Times best-seller’s list, as well as local writers. Within the walls of this vintage brick building existed an environment that promoted rapport among and between customers, as well as the attentive staff. There is a hip coffee shop, with real coffee cups, clean bathrooms and great lighting.

Additionally, outside the Changing Hands building is a refreshment stand for dogs. It’s a cute A-frame roof constructed with a shade allowing for the hot Phoenix sun, and three water bowls set at differing heights to accommodate all sizes of dogs. Now they could have had one big bowl and no shade, or no water at all for pets, like other establishments.

Since customer service is number one with Lexus, I was happy to see that Changing Hands has a similar approach. To reiterate, the goal of successful businesses is to provide a customer experience that addresses a wide spectrum of customers while simultaneously dealing with the specific requirements of groups within your customer base, ( such as women) resulting in increased sales and return customers.

Lexus makes many models of gas fueled and hybrid vehicles for all needs and wants or customers… one size doesn’t fit all in water bowels and cars… Lexus knows that.

As does Lexus and Changing Hands, I want to provide women a great customer experience when walking into a car dealership. So I developed the HER Certified program and Studio. The premise of the studio is based on my book and my certification program through HER Academy. Besides a spot on your showroom floor, there should be a proportionate percentage of females employed in key positions that will uphold the HER Certified Philosophy…much like that of Lexus and Changing Hands.

“HER Certified Dealerships are dedicated to meeting and exceeding the expectations of women when buying or servicing a car.”

It seems only natural that the first HER Certified Studio has been designed and established inside the Superstition Springs Lexus in Mesa, Arizona. The general manager, Brent Adkisson reflects my values and approach to customer service, as well as having at imperative to have women represented in sales, finance, technology and service. He is the perfect dealership model in many ways, including programs to giving back to the community. This is what women want from a dealership customer experience.

And speaking of a great customer experience… The Lexus ES300h is truly worth an outing to your local dealer for a test drive. Until you take it for a spin, it’s difficult to imagine how well it drives, the luxurious appointments, and the potential savings to be realized. Just like Superstition Springs Lexus, Changing Hands and HER Certified… The host anticipates the needs of the guest in advance and offers a service that guests don’t expect.


The 2017 Lexus ES 300h Sedan has all the bells and whistles and then gets 40 MPG city and 39 highway with an estimated annual fuel cost of $900.00. Here are a few of the standard features and some options.

  • There are 12 Performance features — My favorite: Rear Spoiler
  • There are 22 Safety Features — My most important: PCS with Pedestrian detection
  • There are 19 Luxury and Convenience Features — My favorite: Lexus Premium Audio System
  • There are 9 Luxury Options — My favorite: Intuitive Parking Assist

FUN FACT: The ES300h is built on the Toyota Avalon platform.

HOW HYBRIDS WORK: Hybrid cars feature advanced technologies that traditional cars don’t have. Regenerative braking reduces brake friction by using the electric motor to assist in stopping the car. This process generates electricity that’s stored in the chemical battery for later use during high-speed travel. The power assist ability gives extra power to the engine to aid in accelerating, passing or traversing hills. Power assist also makes it possible for the car to house a smaller and more effective gas engine. The automatic start and shut-off system turns the engine off when the car stops and reengages it when the driver pushes the accelerator. This prevents wasted energy and provides better fuel economy.

DID YOU KNOW: The idea of the hybrid car has existed since the early 1900s. Ferdinand Porsche presented a car at the Paris Exposition of 1900 that was able to run solely on electricity for 38 miles. He later included an internal combustion engine to power a generator to charge batteries. The car could only go 35 miles per hour, but it was the first protohybrid.

MSRP: $41,820

Vehicle tested: $50,750

Book: $19.95 on Amazon

For more go to Mesa, Arizona – 480.269.9631

Let’s Focus For-d A Minute: 2016 Ford Focus RS Hatchback

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

While glancing at this vehicle, I was a bit skeptical. Back in the day, the Ford Focus was considered a just plain vanilla or “regular” car. There was nothing special about it except the fact that my hospitality job at the hotel would cover the low payments. It was simple and standard, but got me to where I needed to go. I could also count on the best gas mileage ever especially when sitting in traffic on the 405. That was 10 years ago…pre marriage, pre-babies and pre-baby weight.

So much has changed with this car! Not only is it a bit roomier, but so stylish. The 2016 Ford Focus RS is a charming hatchback with all-wheel drive and a ton of pep, just like my girls. Buckled in the back seat, they asked a ton of questions about the car within a three-block radius of home. They were important things like, why do they call it a hatchback? If you drive a focus does that mean you have to focus on something? The best was, why doesn’t Barbie drive a Focus? Despite the queries of three girls under the age of seven, I was forced to concentrate on shifting gears since there is no automatic transmission in this model.

As my daughter Sofia would say…let’s talk about the “style” of this car. Sofia compares my test drive vehicles to a “who wore it best” competition. She does favor the brighter colored cars so she was absolutely delighted when the Focus sported a nitrous blue-quad coat with a charcoal black interior. Along with the vibrant color, comes the sleek features like many European cars. It includes daytime running lights, LED signature lighting, mirrors with turn signal indicators and Sofia’s favorite, the rear spoiler. I drove the RS package which comes with a six-way power driver seat to accommodate my different moods, beautiful charcoal leather seats, the winter tire and wheel package (the standard comes with summer tires) which of course, in sunny Arizona, is not necessary, but always fun to have. Another “fave” of mine is the heated steering wheel and front seats. I know, I live in AZ, but anything below 60 degrees is freezing for me!

My middle child, Gabby, is a huge fan of anything fast and furious. She likes her cars like her conversation, speedy and loud. The Ford Focus RS I tested had a 6-speed manual transmission. It is superfast and boasts a 2.3-liter four cylinder engine that scores 350 horsepower.

As a mom, you can understand how important safety is. The safety and security features are excellent on this vehicle and makes me comfortable putting my mini-me’s inside of it. We are talking major air bag protection located throughout the car with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control. The Sync 3 system includes an emergency crash-notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cellphone. Also standard are integrated blind-spot mirrors, a rearview camera and Ford’s MyKey system, which can be used to set electronic parameters for inexperienced drivers (

As cool as the Ford Focus RS Hatchback is, it certainly doesn’t have the room to accommodate a family of five. I have two kids with legs for days and one “threeanger” who is 40 pounds. This vehicle is not equipped to handle my “large” family but it would definitely work for a small family unit. The colors and the interior features, make this vehicle extremely fun. It also allows your inner Daytona 500 driver to come out and play. The Ford Focus has come a long way from my concierge days, so if you are a Ford Fan, this would be an ideal choice.

MPG: 19 city – 25 highway

Prices starting at: $36,900

Model Tested: $42,245


Good Things Come In Small Packages: 2016 FIAT 500 Arbath Cabrio

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

When I think of the word “adorable,” I normally think of a baby or puppy. Never would I describe a car as adorable, until I saw the 2016 FIAT 500 Arbath and it literally made me yell aloud “I want that!”fiat-yellow-good

First of all, I absolutely adore the FIAT brand and I get super excited when I see one on the road or in a TV commercial. I am literally transported back to Italy where I honeymooned with my husband eight years ago. We raced around that country in our rented FIAT convertible and it was the best time, in the best car, feeling as native Italian as we could!

When I was given the chance to drive the 2016 FIAT 500 Arbarth here in Arizona, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic; despite the sight of cactus in place of vineyards. At first glance, it might seem like you are getting into a “Barbie car” like the pink one in my garage. However, mine was Giallo Moderna Perla (YELLOW), which normally I would steer away from, but seemed fitting for the Arizona sun and my yellow purse. This car has a spunky personality, like yours truly, and it definitely gets you noticed with the top down.her-certified-beach
How much pep does this tiny car have you ask? I run after three little girls daily, so it needs to keep up with me! This “David” literally turns in to “Goliath” within seconds via its 160-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. Of course, a six-speed automatic is optional, but that’s no fun! A five-speed manual is standard for this FIAT and the smooth suspension makes for great handling. You can definitely see yourself racing up the Amalfi Coast in this little speed demon, hair and scarf blowing in the wind. You might even fantasize about getting a glimpse of George and Amal Clooney.her-certified

The inside of this machine makes for a pretty sweet ride as well. It’s loaded with all of your essentials such as remote keyless entry with integrated key transmitter and illuminated entry, digital screen, and sport leather steering wheel. The interior trim includes body-colored Instrument Panel Insert and Chrome interior accents, full cloth headliner, cloth door trim insert, leather gear shift knob and performance cloth high-back bucket seats. Pretty standard, but somehow way more exciting in this FIAT 500 Cabrio Arbarth.

fiat-yellow-baby-shoes-on-topOf course, optional equipment is always available. Nero (black) seats, 17-inch bronze wheels and Beats Premium Audio System should you choose.

Cargo space is petite, so pack light; this wouldn’t work for golf clubs or mucho luggage but makes the perfect “honeymoon phase car!” The base price of this vehicle is $26,995 and with all the options, you are looking at $33,315 on this test vehicle.

The Arbath is a “sorprendente” vehicle that will prove good things DO come in small packages. Arrivederci!

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